Youth from Mayfield, Kentucky, First Church of the Nazarene help sustain their community’s local government-issued food pantry program, the Needline, by providing manual labor for tasks the pantry’s other volunteers cannot complete.
Each month, the Needline receives semi-truckloads of surplus food items to be distributed to people, including senior citizens, who would otherwise be unable to afford basic food items such as milk, juice, vegetables, beans, and rice.
The pantry is primarily staffed by elderly volunteers who are unable to do many of the physical work to sort the food, which is delivered in bulk on wooden pallets.
“Since the pantry volunteers are elderly, they are unable to meet the physical demands of the bagging process, which involves heavy lifting, repeatedly bending over and down to place items in the bags, and the removal of the cardboard boxes, pallets, and trash,” said Shane Melvin, local Nazarene Youth International president. “This is where the youth are able to make light work of the physical demands of the job.”
The youth spend about three hours each month uncrating, separating, sorting, and packing food. Then they unfold and stack the boxes, paper, and plastic packaging and discard it.
“If our Nazarene Youth International group didn't faithfully serve in this ministry, the seniors might not get their supplemental groceries,” Melvin said.
After the staff number all of the food items for distribution, the youth meticulously sort every item, processing nearly 5,000 items each month.
The grocery distribution takes places on the following Friday morning as community members pick up more than 500 bags of groceries while the youth are at school.
The pantry provides pizza, drinks, and other snacks for the volunteers as a thank you for the group’s efforts. The group even received the pantry’s “Volunteer Group of the Year” award.
Melvin also keeps monthly attendance records for the teen volunteers in order to give them credit for community service hours at school and for summer job resumes.
"This is our NYI ministry — a local ministry project that demonstrates the Gospel and shares Christ's love with the elderly of our community,” Melvin said. “We became the hands and feet of Jesus to help others who are in need, most of whom we do not know. This volunteer ministry opportunity teaches our youth how to serve others unselfishly, which is why we continue this ministry."